10 Reasons Why We Chose a Touch Screen Navigation PC over a Traditional Chartplotter

Chartplotters vs. PCs – Which is Best for Your Boat

Having the right equipment can make all the difference when navigating a sailboat. While traditional chart plotters have been the go-to option for many sailors, Industrial Touch Screen PCs offer a range of benefits that make them a compelling alternative. In this post, we’ll share ten reasons why we chose an Industrial Touch Screen PC for our sailboat navigation computer and explore the pros and cons of this option compared to traditional chartplotters and mini-PCs.

Thinkol 17″ Industrial PC we are using aboard Sweet Ruca

We chose to install a touch screen PC in our boat for many reasons. We have still kept our traditional chart plotters, and will likely always have a chartplotter connected with our instrument system as a redundant backup, but we use the PC for most main navigational tasks at the chart table.

  1. Flexibility: An Industrial Touch Screen PC is a versatile solution that can run a range of navigation software and other applications. This flexibility allows us to customize our setup to our specific needs.
  2. Customization: Many Industrial Touch Screen PC manufacturers offer customization options, allowing us to select the screen size, processor, RAM, and operating system that best suits our needs. We chose the W5 Pro Mini PC from Vnopn, which features an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor, 4GB of RAM, and runs Windows 10 Home.
  3. Connectivity: Industrial Touch Screen PCs often have various connectivity options, including USB, Ethernet, HDMI, and Wi-Fi. This makes it easy to connect to a range of navigation instruments, sensors, and other devices on board.
  4. Cost: While Industrial Touch Screen PCs may initially seem more expensive than traditional chartplotters, they often offer more functionality for the price. Additionally, because they can run a range of applications, they can replace other devices on board, further reducing costs.
  5. Durability: Industrial Touch Screen PCs are built to withstand harsh environments, including moisture, dust, and vibration. This makes them ideal for use on a sailboat, where conditions can be challenging.
  6. Expandability: Industrial Touch Screen PCs can often be expanded with additional peripherals, such as external hard drives, keyboards, and mice. This allows for greater flexibility and functionality.
  7. Screen Size: Industrial Touch Screen PCs come in various screen sizes, allowing us to select the size that best suits our needs and available space on the boat. We chose a 7-inch screen from Vnopn, which provides clear and easy-to-read navigation data.
  8. Compatibility: Industrial Touch Screen PCs are often compatible with a range of navigation software, including Expedition as well as OpenCPN, a popular and free option. This allows us to use the software we are most comfortable with.
  9. Power Supply: Industrial Touch Screen PCs often require a stable and reliable power supply, and we chose the DC-DC 12V Converter Voltage Regulator to ensure this. This device provides a stable 12-volt output, ensuring the Industrial Touch Screen PC receives clean power.
  10. Future-proofing: Because Industrial Touch Screen PCs can run a range of highly customizable applications, they offer a future-proof solution that can be upgraded and adapted as our needs change.

Pros of Industrial Touch Screen PC vs. Traditional Chartplotter and Mini-PCs:

  • Cost effective option
  • More flexibility and customization options
  • Often more cost-effective for the functionality provided
  • Can run a range of navigation software and other applications
  • Built to withstand harsh environments
  • Expandable with additional peripherals
  • Comes in a range of screen sizes
  • Compatible with a range of navigation software
  • Requires a stable power supply for reliable operation
  • Provides a future-proof solution that can be upgraded and adapted over time

Cons of Industrial Touch Screen PC vs Traditional Chartplotter and Mini-PCs:

  1. Learning Curve: Switching to an Industrial Touch Screen PC from a traditional chartplotter may require some adjustment and a learning curve, primarily if you are used to a specific type of navigation software or device.
  2. Mounting: Mounting an Industrial Touch Screen PC on a sailboat can be more challenging than mounting a traditional chart plotter, as it may require a custom bracket or housing to ensure it is secure and protected from the elements.
  3. Power Consumption: Industrial Touch Screen PCs can consume more power than traditional chartplotters, especially if they run other applications besides navigation software. This means you must ensure you have a reliable power supply and monitor power usage to avoid draining your battery.
  4. Maintenance: Because Industrial Touch Screen PCs are essentially small computers, they may require more maintenance and troubleshooting than a traditional chartplotter. This includes tasks such as updating software and drivers, managing storage space and ensuring the device stays cool and dry.
  5. Technical Support: While many Industrial Touch Screen PC manufacturers offer technical support, it may not be as widely available or accessible as support for traditional chartplotters. This can be an issue if you encounter technical problems at sea.

In conclusion, while there are pros and cons to using an Industrial Touch Screen PC for sailboat navigation, we ultimately chose this option for its flexibility, customization options, durability, and future-proofing. By carefully considering our needs and researching our options, we were able to select a device that meets our needs and provides a reliable and functional solution for navigating our sailboat.

Accessories We Have Found Helpful

  • Extended USB Cable: Allows USB connections in different areas of the boat or hidden underneath or inside the nav station.
  • Wireless Keyboard & Touchpad: Can be hidden away to make a clear chart table, but also brought out to ease text entry and have a stable platform for mouse like actions while underway.
  • Wireless Mouse: For use in the harbor or more stable conditions.
  • Networking Equipment: Of course you want to connect your computer to your boats network.

Thank you for visiting our website. We do not recommend anything we have not used ourselves on board our boat or others and have had a good experience with. We do use affiliate programs to support our content and our voyage, when clicking the links above and making a purchase we may receive a small percentage of the purchase price. This is a great way to keep our content free to you, and share a little bit of Amazon’s profits with the little guys like us! Thanks for reading and sharing. Fair winds!


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